Amazon's palm-scanning payment technology, known as Amazon One, has been making waves since its launch in 2020. The innovative biometric payment system allows customers to make purchases by hovering their palm above a reader device, which identifies their unique palm signature and associates it with their payment card on file. While the convenience of palm-based payments is appealing to many, concerns are rising over the potential dangers of biometric scanners and the data they collect.
The latest announcement from Amazon reveals its plans to expand Amazon One to all 500+ Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S. by the end of the year. This move signals a significant expansion of the technology, which has already seen over 3 million uses across various Amazon retail stores, sports stadiums, entertainment venues, and airports.
As Amazon One gains traction, it promises to eliminate the need for wallets or smartphones during purchases, as customers can rely solely on their palm to pay. Additionally, Amazon Prime subscribers who link their Amazon One profile with their Amazon account will enjoy savings as a membership perk. Furthermore, the technology is capable of verifying customers' ages, allowing for convenient purchase of age-restricted products like alcoholic beverages.
However, the rapid adoption of biometric scanning raises several concerns, particularly regarding data security and privacy. Amazon One stores customers' palm signatures in its AWS Cloud, where the information is safeguarded by multiple security controls. Amazon claims that it does not use the palm image itself for identification but rather creates a unique numerical vector representation from the underlying vein pattern.
Despite these assurances, privacy advocates remain cautious. The integration of biometric data, payment card information, and Amazon accounts has the potential to create a detailed profile of customers both online and offline. This could enable Amazon to deliver highly personalized ads and recommendations, which could significantly boost the company's revenue.
Amazon has responded to privacy concerns by claiming that it does not use or sell customer information for advertising or marketing purposes. The company also emphasizes that it will not share palm data with third parties unless legally compelled to do so. However, critics argue that biometric data collection can be susceptible to misuse or hacking, leading to potential privacy violations.
While Amazon One's expansion highlights the need for strict data protection and transparency. Customers must be fully informed about how their biometric data is collected, stored, and used. Moreover, clear policies must be in place to ensure that the data remains secure and is not shared with unauthorized parties.
Despite Amazon's claims of secure data handling, doubts persist among consumers and privacy advocates. The technology has already faced opposition in some venues, and a class action lawsuit over failure to provide proper notice under an NYC biometric surveillance law has been reported.